Sam Sweeney talks about the creation of Made In The Great War

Sam Sweeney's Fiddle: Made In The Great War at Buxton's Pavilion Arts Centre on Monday, September 14.
Sam Sweeney's Fiddle: Made In The Great War at Buxton's Pavilion Arts Centre on Monday, September 14.

Fiddle player Sam Sweeney is on tour with a show which tells the remarkable story of the instrument he plays.

Ahead of his performance at Buxton’s Pavilion Arts Centre on Monday, September 14, the Bellowhead musician took time out of his busy schedule to talk about his show Sam Sweeney’s Fiddle: Made In The Great War.

The show is centred on an unfinished violin found at a music shop, tell us more?

Nine years ago I was fortunate enough to have some funding from the BBC to buy a new fiddle.

I went to Roger Claridge’s fiddle shop in Oxford and instantly fell in love with a fiddle, bought it and took it home.

The violin was clearly brand new with no marks of being played, but inside there was a sticker saying “Made In The Great War, Richard S Howard, 1915.” It turns out that Richard was a music hall performer who had carved the violin pieces, but went off to war before he could finish it.

Nearly a century later the pieces fell into Roger Claridge’s hands and he finished it. The day he put it in his shop was the day I went in and fell in love with it.

How did the story turn into a show?

I thought the story was just too good not to tell to the country.

I asked my favourite story teller, Hugh Lupton, to weave the information into a story. After he had written it, I asked Rob Harbron and Paul Sartin to help me make the music for the show.

Did you uncover what happened to Richard S. Howard?

Unfortunately Richard never came home. He died at the Battle of Messines in 1917, in the largest manmade explosion at that point in history. It was viewed as a historic ‘victory’ for the Allied Forces, but sadly Richard didn’t make it back.

There are some musical parallels with your own life and Richard’s. Did Richard’s story bring the horror of WW1 to life?

The story really does make the enormous and tragic scale of loss during WW1 quite apparent. I think that following one man’s thread through such an awful conflict makes it real. The fact that Richard was himself a violin player has parallels with my life –I’d like to think a bit of his performing spirit lives on every, time I play the fiddle.

Why should people come and see the show?

If you want to be deeply moved, hear beautiful music and see one of the best story tellers in the country, do come along! It might be your last opportunity.

I believe you have links to this part of the country?

I was born in Derbyshire but just moved out to the South West. I used to live in Stoney Middleton and often went to Buxton on days off. I very much think of myself as a Derbyshire man!

l Sam Sweeney’s Fiddle: Made In The Great War is at the Pavilion Arts Centre on September 14 at 7.30pm. Tickets £17.50.